Every year, I try to go to at least one new place. I’m going abroad four times this year, and last week was my first trip of 2017! I’m going to new places in three out of those four trips, and my first stop this year was Brussels, Belgium.
I went to Brussels on a study trip – it was half work, half play. But really, it was mostly work. It was, however, incredibly fun!
We caught the 4pm to Brussels on our first day, arriving at our hotel by 9pm and making our reservation for dinner at 9.20pm by a split second. We ate at this restaurant called ‘Amadeo’ – a wonderful place where, for EUR25.50, you get a bowl of soup, all you can eat spare ribs, and chocolate mousse for desert. Needless to say, our first meal in Brussels was incredibly good.
Our first full day in Brussels was a long one. We started off with an introduction to DG SCIC, the Directorate-General for Interpreting at the European Commission. We met the Head of the Maltese Booth, and learned about the different job opportunities we had with the Commission. We also met some French students from ISIT, the best interpreting University in the world. We didn’t get to talk to them very much, but they were there, and they seemed nice. They were also in our same hotel, so it was almost a pity that we didn’t get to talk to them more.
After a brief lunch at the Commission, we went on our way to the European Parliament through a wonderful park, Leopold Park. At Parliament, we met a few more interpreters, and then sat in a meeting concerning UKIP and Movimento 5 Stelle, where they talked about trade markets, particularly when it comes to agriculture.
After that, we went to dinner at a small Italian restaurant, and then back to the hotel for some much needed rest.
One of our more relaxed days. Our morning was spent at the Council of the European Union, at a meeting being led by the Presidency of the Council (aka: MALTA!!!) that was about immigration and asylum.
During our break, we had chips from the best chip shop in Brussels, Maison Antoine, and ate while sitting in the park. It was uncharacteristically warm for Brussels, with no clouds in the sky until Friday. It was nice to sit on some lovely green grass next to a lake and just eat. Our afternoon was spent in the Parlamenterium, a free museum that exhibits the history of the European Union, and the structure and function of the Parliament and all the MEPs.
For dinner, we finally got to try mussels the Belgian way. I got 1kg of mussels for EUR25, which was totally worth it considering I felt really full when I was done.
After our dinner, we finally took a walk towards the center of our district, and finally found the Grand Place, which I was completely awe-stricken by. I don’t have good enough photos of this wonderful place, but it completely floored me with how magnificent it all was.
On our last day, we interpreted at yet another Council meeting, this time about the digital market. Our day was relatively short, ending with a tour of the new building for the Council of the European Union.
We also took a nice long walk in a park, Cinquantenaire. The walk itself was punctuated with a lot of stops to take photos of ourselves in the absolutely beautiful scenery. Honestly, you can tell you’re Maltese by the way we absolutely fawn over grass anytime we see it.
We managed to make it to a nice ramen place for dinner. It was the first time I had ramen, so I went for the standard chicken miso, and was very much satisfied with how good the whole thing actually tasted! Props to Japanese anime for introducing me to the concept of ramen in the first place ♥
We finished off our day with a stint at the bars in our area, making it back to our rooms in the wee hours of the morning.
Our last day, we all woke up pretty late; late enough that the shops in the center had officially opened (they don’t do so until 10am). Our first stop was the Royal Gallery, a small street full of chocolate shops, brand clothing shops, and artisan little places.
We unfortunately didn’t have much time to do much shopping, really, so we soon had to run back to our hotel to finish packing up all our new purchases and grab our taxi. We were back in Malta by 10.30pm, after a flight full of turbulence due to lightning storms around the area we were flying in.
My final thoughts? Brussels is a wonderful, beautiful city I can’t wait to visit again, when I have more time to actually go around and more of a holiday mood than I do at the moment. It was a nice break from Malta, and the political upheaval this country is currently facing. It’s nice to see other countries, and now I can’t wait for July to come along so I can sail off to my next destination: the UK!